I’m sure many of us see narcissists as vain, shallow, apathetic, and self-absorbed. We’ve all met these people in some part of our lives: people who feel entitled, people who can exploit others without guilt, or people who need constant praise.
But is this what a narcissist really is? And by calling someone a narcissist – does this make you a hypocrite?
In short, yes it does. Everyone is a narcissist at their psychological core. And everyone needs to be narcissistic (to an extent). Here’s why:
It helps us create an illusion to fantasise about our grandiose self. It’s a way to create stability in how we perceive the world, to provide a sense of self-esteem, to bridge the gap between soul and reality, and to protect ourselves from rejection.
This I’d say, is healthy narcissism. Imagine if we did not have this illusory mask, we would constantly worry about our inevitable fate of death. We would be frustrated with the world.
Narcissism is a natural development from young. Imagine narcissism like a mirror. Everyone wants to see their ideal self in a mirror. As a child, your self-fulfilment is provided by your parents. They reflect the positive qualities about you: balancing the art of fusing you into reality, as well as individualising your identity.
However, different mirrors produce different images of the self.
One mirror could reflect little light. Your self-love is absorbed into the mirror, but little is reflected back onto you. The lack of reciprocation means less protection and nurturing towards your self.
Another mirror can reflect too much light, providing a sense of entitlement and perfectionism.
With these distorted mirrors, your identity becomes flawed and disturbed. So, you create a mask instead to cope with such distortion (displaying symptoms trivially shown in a narcissist).
The problem with keeping this mask on is that you disrupt the mechanism of separating yourself from the world. You are not an individual, instead you are absorbed in perfecting your ideal portrait.
If you’ve heard the story of Narcissus, you would know that Narcissus believes he is perfect. He loves his reflection so much he simply stares into it until he wastes away.
But if you believe you are so perfect, you stay in the same spot forever and reality will eat you up alive and destroy you. Reality does not care about your godlike ideal. This is the same if the mirror is reversed.
If you relate to this analogy, perhaps think about what your reflection may mean to you. You can’t go back in time and rely on your parents to be that mirror anymore. But, with the right environment, perhaps change is possible.